Days of Sunshine Mean More Power, Thanks to New Solar Panel

By Grace Peck ’18

The Simpson College Physics Club has created their own solar panel-charging kiosk that has been placed on the patio between the Holy Grounds Coffee Shop and the Amy Robertson Music Building.

The solar panel is housed by a wooden frame, with extension cords hanging out of the back for people to charge their laptops and phones with.

Here’s how the solar panel charging kiosk works: The solar panel, via a charge controller circuit, keeps a 12-volt battery inside the kiosk charged-up; an AC-converter (like you might use in a car or camper) converts the 12 volts DC to 120 volts AC.

To use the kiosk, a user simply has to set a 0-60 minute timer switch on the back of the kiosk then plug their device into one of two available extension cords, which are connected to the AC converter. The timer switch is used so that the AC converter does not stay on all the time and drain the battery.

A solar panel was built a few years ago, but it didn’t work, so Taylor Jurgensen, president of the Simpson College physics club, along with other club members decided to build a new one.

“I’m tired of seeing it waste away in the store room, so I can’t wait for it to go out and begin a new project for the physics club.” said senior Jurgensen, a physics and math major from Waukee, who has been working on the panel the past two years and a half.

The making of the actual panel was a long one. “We had the frame for it, but we had to solder each panel individually, six times to get it to work,” Jurgensen said, “It puts out around 20 volts…and it can charge two laptops at a time.”

The creation of the individual panels and connecting them alone took a year for the physics club.

Jurgensen built the wooden frame that houses the solar panel and the battery it’s attached to, and even carved a wooden plaque to show the physics club’s work. He also went through the process of getting approval for its new location, going through Rich Ramos, associate dean of students; the groundskeeper; and the Cabinet administrators.

The club’s advisor, Professor David Olsgaard, co-chair of the physics and chemistry department at Simpson, said he couldn’t be prouder of his students.

“My role was really just feeding them some money and advice here and there,” he said. “It was all them.”

Previously locked in one of the labs in the Carver Science building, the panel is now up and functioning outside, thanks to the return of sunny days.

“This project took almost two years to complete but it was worth the wait,” Jurgensen said. “Now Simpson has a green energy-charging station that can be moved to wherever it is needed the most.”

 

 

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